Beyond History Blog

Series: Street names and their stories

Avatar of Andrea Bentschneider Andrea Bentschneider - 12. January 2016 - General, Hamburg, Knowledge, Personalities, Professions

First part

The Troplowitz street in Hamburg

Big company – tragic story!

Whether the cream “Nivea”, the adhesive film “Tesa” or a care lipstick called “Labello” – everyone knows the products, also the producer is known all over the world: the Beiersdorf AG. The persons behind those brands are known much less.

In 1880, Paul Carl Beiersdorf born in Neuruppin in 1836 settles down as a pharmacist in Hamburg and fiddles with the dermatologist Paul Gerson Unna (1850-1929) about an adhesive bandage for wounds – the patch as we know it nowadays is invented!

Beiersdorf and Unna founded the “Fabrik dermotherapeutischer Präparate” (factory for dermo-therapeutic preparations) in 1882. Only 8 years later Beiersdorf sells all his shares because of a tragic stroke of fate: His son commits suicide because he has to repeat a class in school. Beiersdorf receives 60.000 Deutsche Mark (a longshoreman earned 61 Mark a month) and invests his money into the building industry. However, because of hazardous ventures he loses almost his entire fortune. As his attempt to start all over again as a pharmacist fails, Beiersdorf collapses and commits suicide by poisoning in 1896.

The company that was bought in 1890 by Oscar Troplowitz (1863 - 1918) originating from Gleiwitz / Upper Silesia expands in the continuous successful cooperation with Mr. Unna and becomes a global corporation. In 1896, the so-called "Beiersdorf-Kautschuk-Klebefilm" is invented, after 1936 it becomes generally known as “Tesa-tape“. In 1901, Troplowitz invents the medical adhesive patch named “Leukoplast”. He devises the “Labello” in 1909, a care lipstick in a case with a rotatable shell which is inimitable in that time. In 1911, the “Nivea“ cream is placed on the market.

Besides his creative capabilities Troplowitz has a distinctive social conscience towards his employees: As early as the turn of the century his staff enjoys lunch for free, a nursery school offered by the company, a pension pool, and maternity protection. 

To this day the company is still known and acting all over the world, and in spite of the Jewish ancestry of the founding families and some members of the management it has overcome the dark chapter in German history.

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